Protracted contract negotiations, long manufacturing lead times and slow bureaucracy are delaying planned deliveries of 36 F-16 multi-role jet fighters and 24 Apache helicopters to the Iraqi airforce. The aircraft just beginning to roll off Lockheed Martin Corp. production lines. Four years after Congress was first notified of the sale, only two of the $65 million fighters have been handed over to the U.S. government and none have reached Iraq. The deliveries are now held up by apparent payment problems and the conflict, which is preventing work needed to prepare Balad air base to receive the jets. A U.S. defense official:
The F-16s are not being delivered at this time because the Iraqis did not make the latest installment and because the installation security plan at Balad was not completed because of the security situation in Iraq.
Hassan Jihad Ameen, a lawmaker on the security and defense committee in the Maliki government, says the U.S. may have been slow to deliver because of concerns the previous Shi’ite-led administration could have used the planes in ways that intensified sectarian divisions with Sunnis:
Now … there is a hope that we have this new government which doesn’t differentiate between Iraqis and (is) able to create better atmospheres.
He says that while Iraq is running budget deficits, the payments issue isn’t a significant barrier.
Iraq has money and allocations, and the payments will be agreed upon
The Pentagon denies deliberately slowing-down deliveries, saying the U.S. has a $15 billion military sales program with Iraq and has worked to accelerate deliveries of equipment where possible. Lockheed Martin says production of the Iraqi planes will be completed in late 2017, months sooner than outlined in the initial contract.